RahXephon Vol. #1 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, February 17, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

What They Say
2015 AD. Tokyo is apparently the last city remaining on the otherwise devastated Earth. But high school student Ayato Kamina is caught up in a devastating attack on the city, from fighters that must have come from outside. Emerging from the rubble, he meets a mysterious girl, Reika Mishima, who guides him to a hidden sanctuary where, from a black egg, an enormous humanoid weapon?RahXephon?emerges. Inside the egg is a marking that matches one on Ayato?s body. He is the only person who can pilot RahXephon, and as assaults on the city continue he finds himself fighting to defend his world, even as evidence mounts that everything?and everyone?he thought was true isn?t anymore?

The Review!
This review is 100% Evangelion-Comparison free.

With so many of my favorite actors filling in the roles here, we were very committed to the Japanese language track with this release. Presented in its original stereo mix, the audio here sounds fantastic. Dialogue is crisp and clear and allowed for some excellent nuanced moments of dialogue to shine through. The music, a gorgeous part of this show, makes out extremely well with the stereo channels and sound lush and warm. We did spot-check the English track as ADV went and made a 5.1 mix for it, but the biggest changes we found was some added depth to the directionality of the voices. Things such as the music, particularly the opening, didn?t sound all that different.

Originally airing in 2001, RahXephon is one of the latest things being produced by BONES, one of the most notable up and coming ?studio?s? of the past few years. With this being such a recent show, the transfer here is simply gorgeous, showing off so many details that you?d normally not even think of seeing in a show like this. Colors are gorgeous, especially the lush blue sky backgrounds or the water sequences. Cross coloration is non-existent and there was only one very brief moment of aliasing that stood out. This transfer looks essentially flawless, and with all the original text being done over by soft subtitles, there?s nothing that I can even nitpick at here.

Using part of the artwork from the RahXephon Prelude Special, the cover here has a great image of RahXephon with more of an abstract sort of piece of art behind it in similarly shaded colors. The shows logo retains the original font and has the added volume numbering and volume titling on the front, a rather nice plus. The back cover provides a few screenshots from the show as well as a listing of the discs technical specs and extra features. A summary of the show and a listing of the main production credits is also included. Due to this being a promotional copy release, there was no insert included.

The menus use the abstract artwork from the cover to provide the basis here with a small area playing animation from the show while a portion of the score plays. The layout is pretty simple and easy to navigate with each episode selectable from the main menu, no transitional animations and quick access loads.

Only a few extras made it onto the first volume, but there?s some nice ones. The opening and ending sequences get a textless version here, allowing the really stunning artwork to shine through, particularly in the ending sequence. There?s a special Japanese promotional trailer from the show as well as a small section of production sketches.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
RahXephon is one of the latest shows to come out that presents itself as a very serious war show that?s dealing with large issues and large scales. And like most anime that cover these kinds of areas, it?s all boiled down to how the young people of the day handle it, giving it a reason to resonate with the kids watching the show.

RahXephon?s world is an interesting one, and one that we have to tell in two parts. The first is the initial setup, where we get introduced to the lead character of Ayato Kamiya, a seventeen year old lad whose often on his own as his mother works in a research lab far more than she should. He?s a relatively intelligent person, but lacks focus on things and sort of just floats through life, much like many of his generation. We get a small peak at something larger early on as we watch him work on a painting that?s almost a premonition.

Ayato?s world is vastly different from our own, as it?s about 2015 now and most of the world is gone. In one segment, we hear a complaint during school as to why the class must learn English since it?s a dead language now that America and England are gone. I was happy to see this since it meant that we likely aren?t the bad guys this time around again. Where the world once held six billion people, there are now only about twenty three million left.

During a segment having Ayato and a few friends going to school, the world of the twenty three million undergoes a huge change as a war breaks out. The enemy is a strange faceless unmarked series of fighter craft that are all over the city suddenly, fighting against the Defense Forces that have come out. Ayato?s train gets trashed, but he manages to get out unscathed and searches for help above ground, only to run into serious shooting grounds. His search eventually leads him to come across a classmate named Reika Mishima, someone who seems to be attuned to something that he can?t put his finger on.

The two make their way around the city to try and stay alive as the battle rages on. While they scurry about, we get to see some of the actual battles going on and it?s quite different from what one would expect. Apparently the Defense Forces have a very special weapon to help them, which is an oddly designed near-humanoid shaped giant craft, close to a robot style, that floats through the air with wings extended as it?. Sings? A second one appears not long after and continues the fight as well. There?s some casual mention about these among the men in black running around looking for Ayato, but they?re more curious than concerned.

Ayato?s tough for them to find though since he and Reika have taken an empty train car to an underground shrine called Xephon. When the pair step off and into the shrine chamber, it?s almost like stepping into another world as there is an immense beautiful sky above them and hanging roman architecture all over in broken pieces. It?s almost a classical piece, with the small waterfalls all over and in the center a massive egg shaped dome. The singing of the things far above permeates even this level, at least to the hearing of Reika and she begins to follow the sound and feel of it all and moves deeper into the chamber, causing Ayato to follow. This proves to be his true changing point, as his proximity has set the mech inside the egg to begin to come alive, and Ayato finds himself being enmeshed inside it, able to control it.

Due the episodes having a radical change, skip to the next bar to avoid anything that would give away far too much. It?s impossible to not talk about this material, but to know it prior to seeing the show would ruin the first half.

During everything going on above and in addition to the men in black that?s looking for Ayato, there?s a black haired woman named Haruka Shitow who is searching him out. She ends up caught up in all the events of the RahXephon coming to life and the pitched battle that Ayato gets himself into. It?s also through her that he?s able to make the biggest world change, as he ends up blacking out during all the excitement, only to reawaken by her later on.

Instead of being somewhere in Tokyo though, he finds himself and the RahXephon at some small abandoned port town where nobody has been in quite some time. To one view, there is the beautiful open sea with nothing blocking it for miles and miles. But looking in the opposite direction is a mammoth wall, one that looks very much like pictures of Jupiter?s clouds. It?s from inside there, Haruka explains, that they all just came from. Behind that wall, which from all analysis is spherical shaped and encompassing most of Japan is enclosed and unaware. To those inside, as we saw, the rest of the world is dead. But from the outside, not only is it actually 2027 instead of 2015, but they?re looking for ways to try and get inside and to stop what?s going on.

The Tokyo Jupiter world has some grand scheme that people are unaware of, as it?s now controlled by the Mulians, a race that?s taken over and is keeping things quite secretive with their deceptions. We get hints of this earlier as when some people were injured, they had blue blood instead of red, as well as seeing the previously invisible massive flying city that?s over Tokyo. All of this is incredibly hard for Ayato to hear, even if he does learn that Haruka is a member of the Terran intelligence division and has plenty of evidence to back it up, once they?re rescued.

Ayato?s world becomes one of re-adjustment to what?s going on, with not only the time being different but practically everything else. A lot is said about his character when one of the commanding officers points out how he doesn?t even take advantage of all the historical information available to him while in confinement to learn his situation. Ayato?s focus once he?s away from his home is to nearly withdraw and to snap at those who are helping him, but also to not even help himself. Thankfully this doesn?t come across as poor or whiny, since just the few years difference in age between Ayato and most characters who are done up this way gives him a slightly more mature feel and a different way of handling things.

With all of this in front of him, the show progresses towards his learning things over again as they have him stay on a nearby research island where they start looking into the RahXephon, as the two have a link. His shacking up with a few people from the Terran forces moves things into a bit of the comical area, but it?s all handled extremely well and without being forced or out of place.

RahXephon is one of those shows that pulls a brilliant 180 degree turn in just the first couple of episodes that works out perfectly. After establishing a setting, it turns things on its ear and then moves the cast forward. There?s reason for each setting and for how it does things, as it progresses the storyline perfectly as they want to tell it. On the downside, it makes it hard to really talk about things without giving away too much.

With these first five episodes, I was very impressed with how everything came together. The structure of things was nicely done with plenty of things set up that are likely to keep coming back and making the larger storyline for Ayato difficult to deal with. The shows production values are top notch as well with gorgeous character designs as well as mecha designs. Ayato?s not a pasty little boy who you wonder how he could possibly be in this situation or an overbearing brute. He?s pretty much got the average kid shtick down and while having some problems in his life, he?s dealing with it.

The style of the show also forced a change onto the folks at ADV as the end credits sequence is done in a 2.5:1 letterbox style. While normally they?d use scrolling credits, here it would look awful so they instead put fade-in/fade-out credits along the top and bottom while soft-sub song subtitles play in the image itself. I can now for the first time say that I?ve seen an end-credit sequence from ADV that I like, as I typically despise the credits roll.

As an aside, I noted that a lot of the early reviews of this title that went up gave the show extremely glowing praise. With the first volume, we (meaning myself and my wife, who continues to watch about 90% of the shows we get) found ourselves very intrigued by the show and really loved how it twisted things right after doing the initial setup. But I?m mostly convinced that the large number of big A+/10 style reviews are coming from those who have seen the show in its entirety already and know what?s happening. We went into this show knowing next to nothing with our only exposure being the trailer that?s been running for a couple of months. Part of what I?m trying to say is, temper the praise with some of that knowledge, because while the opening episodes are very good, they?re not the huge key episodes that really make or break a series.

With that said, I will definitely recommend this series to be checked out, because it?s got beautiful production values, a sharply written script and looks to have one serious agenda ahead of it.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Textless Closing,Special Japanese Promo,Production Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: RahXephon